NOSTALGIA: PoWs forced to cut height of Portsdown Hill
Believe it or not these two pictures were taken at the same place.
In the older photograph soldiers with perhaps a gun limber are climbing Portsdown Hill Road from London Road heading east. As we can see there is a dip down to the crossroads. It was not always like this.
At one time the road in the distance would have been a continuation of Portsdown Hill Road on a level course. The summit of Portsdown Hill is 430ft above sea level and the original centre of the crossroads would have been above the chalk outcrop seen in the distance.
The strain put on horses to gain the summit must have been tremendous and in 1810 Napoleonic prisoners of war were set to work lowering the summit by 50ft. The project was completed in 1813 and no doubt saved a few horses from heart attacks after hauling a stagecoach up the hill from Cosham.
In the mid-1960s crossroads’ traffic in front of The George pub was judged too dangerous and a bypass was built behind the pub and Portsdown Hill Road became a flyover. The junction is still there but operated in a one-way system.
The original road was to the left of the modern road but even now the difference in heights between the summit of the hill and the cutting can be seen.
•Take a stroll along Palmerston Road, Southsea, today, long since converted into a precinct, it is a boring experience compared to days past.
Here we see the road before the Second World War when there were shops galore and where the high-class ladies of Southsea would have been very much at home.
The spire of St Jude’s Church in Kent Road peeks over the rooftops.
It’s possibly a winter day as everyone is wearing a hat and coat yet it was very bright as can be seen by the strong shadows on the right.
Sadly, what can be seen was all taken from us on the night of January 10, 1941, when the blitz on the city destroyed much of Southsea’s premier shopping street along with King’s Road half-a-mile away.